You’ve spent so much time preparing for your visit to the hospital or setting up baby’s adorable nursery to think much about the in-between – that first week home. Before baby goes into his/her own room and before the vision in your mind of what life is like with a baby sets in, there is a huge adjustment period. Here is a day-by-day breakdown of what you can generally expect during your first week home with baby.
For you: Healing
It’ll be hard to think about much else other than your recovery during that first day. You’ll be quite sore, but hopefully, you’re well-stocked with recovery aids to make it easier. Check out this guide to tried-and-true recovery tips, some of the most important being a water bottle to squirt on yourself while you use the bathroom, witch hazel pads to put in your giant underwear, and lots of pain meds.
For baby: Sleeping
Many new moms are surprised at how much downtime they have with a new baby, who can sleep up to 16 hours per day according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This sleep is usually in increments of 1-3ish hours at a time, including during the night, so listen to the masses of people who will tell you to sleep when baby sleeps, because you’re going to be cycle-sleeping for a while.
For you: Cycle sleeping
Speaking of cycle sleeping, you’ll want to develop a night-time routine as you adjust. Sleep deprivation can take a toll on your mental health, but if your mother, sister, friend, or other loved one offers to stay a few days to help out after the baby is born, take them up on it so they can get up with the baby at night a few times to allow you longer stretches of sleep at a time. If it’s just you and your husband, take turns getting up to change and feed the baby if possible, so you can each get a little more sleep.
For baby: Jaundice check
It’s likely your baby was checked for jaundice at the hospital, but sometimes it doesn’t develop until a few days after birth, according to the AAP. Your pediatrician may ask you to schedule a checkup a few days after your baby is born to have their bilirubin levels checked to make sure jaundice isn’t a problem, so expect this appointment during the first few days home with baby.
For you: Your milk comes in
Most women’s milk comes in within 3-4 days after birth, but it could be sooner or later. Your breasts will probably feel firmer and bigger. As you work toward a positive breastfeeding experience, consider calling in a lactation consultant to make sure everything looks good. They can usually come to your house and can evaluate your baby’s latch and answer any questions you have or address any concerns.
For baby: Losing weight
Don’t be alarmed at your baby’s checkup to find that he/she has lost weight since birth. According to the American Pregnancy Association, newborn babies often lose 5-10 percent of their body weight, but will usually make it up in 2 or 3 weeks. If you are concerned about your baby’s eating habits or weight, call your pediatrician.
For you: Dealing with visitors
Visitors can be either a real help or a real burden, to be honest. It’s to be expected that your family and friends are excited about the new baby, but you must also set boundaries on what you’re comfortable with as far as hosting so soon after giving birth. As you recover and also try to shield baby from outside germs, decide your timeframe for allowing visitors to come, maybe starting with close family the first week and extending the invitation to friends the week after. Don’t feel bad about putting them to work or taking them up on their offer to help in any way.
For baby: Real poop
When your baby was first born, he/she probably still had some meconium to work out of his/her system. Meconium is that black, tar-like poop you probably saw in the hospital. But now that you’ve been nursing for a few days, you can expect baby’s poop to change drastically, but not quite what you’d expect. Newborn poop is usually yellow and seedy, but the color can vary, according to the AAP.
For you: Contracting uterus pain
This is something I wish more people would’ve warned me of. Your full-term uterus doesn’t just shrink back to normal immediately after birth. It takes days, even up to a week for it to contract back down, and it can be painful. Very painful, especially when you breastfeed. Listen to your doctor when they advise you on taking pain meds, because even if recovery down there doesn’t hurt as much anymore, keeping on your meds schedule can help with this pain that can last for up to a week after birth.
For baby: Umbilical cord falls off
My son’s umbilical cord fell off on day 4, but the timeframe for the umbilical cord falling off can vary by a few weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic. You’ll have to be careful with it before it does, sponge-bathing around it and monitoring it for any problems. But once it falls off, you’re free to give your baby the first bath in the tub, which is such a fun and adorable milestone!
For you: Bonding with baby
You don’t need me to tell you how amazing your baby is, but there are some things you can do to bond even more in those first few days at home. Don’t give up the skin-to-skin after you leave the hospital, as this is still one of baby’s favorite ways to cuddle and it has a lot of benefits for mama and baby. Also, pay attention to your baby’s cries, trying to decipher the difference between hungry cries, tired cries, uncomfortable cries, etc. Your baby also loves the sound of your voice, so sing and talk while you let him/her study your face. And don’t forget tummy time!
For baby: Spitting up
Spit up can be frustrating, as it often seems like baby spits up more than he/she digests. But don’t worry, it’s normal and manageable. To reduce spit up, the AAP recommends feeding baby before he/she gets too hungry to prevent too much air from being swallowed as they gulp. Also, make sure you burp baby well after feeding and keep him/her in an upright position for a while to help with digestion.
For you: Nursing pain
Here’s the deal, for as natural and easy as you think breastfeeding should be, you’ll be surprised at how much it hurts. A lot. But it makes sense because any part of your body that all of the sudden is sucked on almost all day would get sore, right? From my personal experience, day 7 was the worst, the absolute worst, and I wanted to give up. My mom told me beforehand and again on day 7 that that was the worst of it, and to grit my teeth and get through day 7 because it would get better from there, and she was right. However, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor or a lactation consultant for tips to improve latch and hold to minimize the pain and make sure all is well. Just remember, it does get better.
For baby: First bath
Assuming the umbilical cord has fallen off, your baby is ready for the first real bath! Seeing their reactions to the water is adorable, and it’s so fun to wash them and gush over their cute little body. You can sing and play with them as you wash them, then snuggle to warm them up and take in that intoxicating clean baby smell… that is until they poop again.
Have you made it through week 1 with your baby? What other tips would you give expecting moms?